Derrick Brown

Panthers, Derrick Brown Agree To Extension

Ascending defensive tackles around the league continue to receive monster second contracts. The Panthers have worked out a four-year, $96MM extension with Derrick Brown, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports. The team has announced the move.

Schefter adds this deal includes just over $63MM in guaranteed money, which is in line with many other DT mega-deals worked out over the past two offseasons. Brown was set to play out the final season of his rookie contract in 2024 via the fifth-year option (valued at $11.66MM). He will secure a major raise up front while being on the books through 2028 as a result of this pact.

The contract includes $41.2MM fully guaranteed,’s Albert Breer tweets. While the total guarantee number ranks sixth among D-tackles, the full guarantee sits ninth. However, Breer adds $49MM comes Brown’s way over the extension’s first two years, with more than $13MM of his 2026 salary shifting to a full guarantee by 2025.

Talks on a Brown extension have been underway for some time now, so it comes as little surprise an agreement has been reached. Carolina had the option of waiting several months to hammer out a deal with the former No. 7 pick under contract for 2024, but the DT market has continued to surge. Especially with edge rusher Brian Burns no longer in place, the team had the funds available to make a steep investment such as this one.

Brown will now match Quinnen Williams in terms of AAV ($24MM) on this pact. That figure ranks fourth in the league amongst active players, and each of the three ahead of them on the list – Chris Jones, Christian Wilkins, Justin Madubuike – inked new deals this offseason. Brown will remain a central figure in the Panthers’ defense for years to come while joining the league’s highest-paid producers at the position.

The soon-to-be 26-year-old earned his first career Pro Bowl nod in 2024. Brown broke the NFL’s all-time record for tackles by a defensive lineman (103), bringing his career total in that respect to 245. He has added eight sacks in that span while serving as a full-time starter and remaining durable (one missed game, in 2021). Carolina made it clear Brown was untouchable during negotiations with the Bears over the blockbuster trade involving last year’s No. 1 pick. The Panthers ultimately agreed to move on from wideout D.J. Moore to help finalize that deal.

Since then, general manager Scott Fitterer has been fired. His internal replacement, Dan Morgan, has nevertheless carried on with making Brown a top priority. Keeping the Auburn product in the fold beyond his rookie pact would have become a challenge if the team had met Burns’ asking price, something which appeared to be increasingly unlikely to happen through the 2023 season. After turning down major trade interest in recent years, Carolina shipped Burns to the Giants and cleared the way for Brown to become the financial core of the Panthers’ defense.

Without the likes of Burns, Frankie Luvu or Jeremy Chinn in place anymore, questions have been raised about Carolina’s prospects on that side of the ball in 2024 and beyond. Brown will nonetheless be counted on to continue his production from the past two seasons in particular as a foundational member of the team’s core. His ability to do so will play a vital role in Carolina’s development over the coming years.

Panthers Have Discussed Extending DT Derrick Brown

Panthers defensive tackle Derrick Brown took a couple of seasons to find his game in the NFL but showed enough in Year 3 to warrant the pickup of the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. A year later, and a second stellar season under his belt, Brown could be headed towards a new contract extension before he even gets the chance to play on that option.

After selecting Brown seventh overall out of Auburn in 2020, Carolina held high expectations for its new starting defensive tackle. Brown delivered on expectations that he would be disruptive, racking up eight tackles for loss in each of his first two season. He also showed a talented pass rushing ability, tallying five sacks and 21 quarterback hits in those first two years. He came under fire early in his career, though, for his struggles in run defense and tackling.

Brown’s third year in the league saw tremendous improvement. While he still had his struggles tackling, he heavily improved his run defense, helping him go from the 37th-best interior defender in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), to the seventh-best. In 2023, Brown put any questions of his tackling issues to rest. Not only did he lead the league in tackles made by a defensive tackle, but Brown also set the NFL record for total tackles in a single season by an interior defender with an astounding 103.

The man was a singular vacuum in the middle of the Panthers defense, and as a result, once again improved his standing, grading out as the fourth-best interior defender in the NFL this season, per PFF, trailing only Dexter Lawrence, Aaron Donald, and Quinnen Williams, three of the league’s highest-paid defensive tackles. Whenever extension talks occur, Brown and his representation, Drew Rosenhaus, will be sure to point out that all three of the above-mentioned players are making over $20MM per year.

Those extension talks do seem to be close at hand, according to Joe Person of The Athletic, who reports that the Panthers general manager Dan Morgan has been in touch with Rosenhaus. The team exercised the 25-year-old’s fifth-year option, allowing them ample time to work out a potential extension agreement. They even lucked out, as the lack of a Pro Bowl season up to that point only qualified Brown for the third tier of the fifth-year option structure, putting his fifth-year, fully-guaranteed salary at a rather manageable $11.67MM. Brown ended up finally earning that Pro Bowl honor this year.

Unfortunately, his Pro Bowl season came one year late. The Panthers may still pursue an extension, though, attempting to lock down Brown on a long-term, potentially team-friendly deal while avoiding any potential for a holdout. His fifth-year salary is set to be about half of what the annual average value would be on a new deal, but it’s all fully guaranteed and all hitting the salary cap. An extension could help lower that cap hit and potentially reward Brown with more guaranteed money in a different structure.

Carolina has some free agents to deal with this offseason like linebacker Frankie Luvu and star pass rusher Brian Burns, so more pressing matters may be at the top of the docket right now. Still, Brown is turning into one of the league’s best at his position, turning even his early-career weaknesses into strengths as he prepares to enter a contract year. Extending him before that point should be an offseason priority.

D.J. Moore’s Contract Factored Into Bears’ Trade Effort

While the Panthers stood down regarding a D.J. Moore trade after firing Matt Rhule last October, they ended up unloading their top wide receiver to secure what turned out to be Bryce Young draft real estate. Moore will move to a Bears franchise that has not had much luck forging long-term partnerships with impact wide receivers.

Moore came up during the Bears and Panthers’ trade talks when other suitors drove up the bidding during the early-March sweepstakes for the No. 1 overall pick. The Texans initially were part of these proceedings, with the Bears plotting a move down from No. 1 to No. 2 to No. 9. After Houston withdrew, Chicago dealt directly with Carolina. Bears GM Ryan Poles also inquired about defensive linemen Brian Burns and Derrick Brown, but both being on rookie contracts impeded either being included in the trade.

In the very beginning I was laughed at because I had [one of] three guys that I wanted in the trade,” Poles said, via The Athletic’s Jim Trotter (subscription required). “I did know and felt like there was more of an opportunity to get D.J. because he had a bigger contract and there would be a bigger benefit in cap space to kick back to Carolina. But it was not easy because they absolutely loved that kid. It was painful to pull him out of their arms. I really think it would have been even harder if he had been on a rookie contract.

Carolina extended Moore in nearly a year before trading him, agreeing to terms on a three-year deal worth $61.9MM. That pact came just before the avalanche of receiver extensions drove up the market. Moore, Mike Williams and Chris Godwin settled onto the same tier, hours before Davante Adams‘ Raiders extension ($28MM per year) and days before Tyreek Hill‘s $30MM-AAV extension came to pass. The 2019 receiver class soon upped the cost for up-and-coming star pass catchers as well.

The Bears will benefit from the Panthers’ timing with Moore. They now have him tied to the 10th-most lucrative receiver deal, with the likes of A.J. Brown, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel and D.K. Metcalf passing him later during the 2022 offseason. Chicago does not have another big-ticket skill-position deal on its books, with Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and Cole Kmet attached to rookie contracts. Justin Fields‘ rookie pact runs through 2024 but can be pushed to 2025 via the fifth-year option. The team let David Montgomery walk — for a three-year, $18MM Lions deal — and landed a replacement (D’Onta Foreman) for just $2MM.

The Bears might still be in the market for defensive end help, having finished last in sacks in 2022 and addressing their D-tackle spots early in the draft. But Burns remains on track to sign a Panthers extension. Brown became extension-eligible in January, but the Panthers picked up his fifth-year option earlier this month.

Moore, 26, posted 1,100-plus-yard years from 2019-21, doing so despite a shuffling Panthers QB situation. The Bears have experienced fairly good fortune with veteran acquisitions at receiver over the past several years. Brandon Marshall still holds the team’s single-season receiving yardage record; Allen Robinson produced two 1,100-plus-yard seasons. Neither lasted more than four years for the Bears, who did not get much from Robinson’s fourth slate (a 410-yard showing on the franchise tag).

Moore’s Chicago fit will be a work in progress, but he should have a chance to land another extension in the not-too-distant future, a contract that could keep him in Illinois for the long haul.

2024 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 2 to officially pick up fifth-year options on 2020 first-rounders who are entering the final year of their rookie deals. The 2020 CBA revamped the option structure and made them fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, fifth-year option salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement and performance- and usage-based benchmarks:

  • Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternate Pro Bowlers) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag.
  • One-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag.
  • Players who achieve any of the following will get the average of the third-20th highest salaries at their position:
    • At least a 75% snap rate in two of their first three seasons
    • A 75% snap average across all three seasons
    • At least 50% in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will receive the average of the third-25th top salaries at their position.

With the deadline looming, we’ll use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

  1. QB Joe Burrow, Bengals ($29.5MM): Exercised
  2. DE Chase Young, Commanders ($17.45MM): Declined
  3. CB Jeff Okudah, Falcons* ($11.51MM): N/A
  4. T Andrew Thomas, Giants ($14.18MM): Exercised
  5. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins ($23.2MM): Exercised
  6. QB Justin Herbert, Chargers ($29.5MM): Exercised
  7. DT Derrick Brown, Panthers ($11.67MM): Exercised 
  8. LB Isaiah Simmons, Cardinals ($12.72MM): Declined
  9. CB C.J. Henderson, Jaguars** ($11.51MM): Declined
  10. T Jedrick Wills, Browns ($14.18MM): Exercised
  11. T Mekhi Becton, Jets ($12.57MM): Declined
  12. WR Henry Ruggs, Raiders: N/A
  13. T Tristan Wirfs, Buccaneers ($18.24MM): Exercised
  14. DT Javon Kinlaw, 49ers ($10.46MM): Declined
  15. WR Jerry Jeudy, Broncos ($14.12MM): Exercised
  16. CB AJ Terrell, Falcons ($12.34MM): Exercised
  17. WR CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys ($17.99MM): Exercised
  18. OL Austin Jackson, Dolphins ($14.18MM): Declined
  19. CB Damon Arnette, Raiders: N/A
  20. DE K’Lavon Chaisson, Jaguars ($12.14MM): Declined
  21. WR Jalen Reagor, Vikings*** ($12.99MM): To decline
  22. WR Justin Jefferson, Vikings ($19.74MM): Exercised
  23. LB Kenneth Murray, Chargers ($11.73MM): Declined
  24. G Cesar Ruiz, Saints ($14.18MM): Declined
  25. WR Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers ($14.12MM): Exercised
  26. QB Jordan Love, Packers ($20.27MM): Extended through 2024
  27. LB Jordyn Brooks, Seahawks ($12.72MM): Declined
  28. LB Patrick Queen, Ravens ($12.72MM): Declined
  29. T Isaiah Wilson, Titans: N/A
  30. CB Noah Igbinoghene, Dolphins ($11.51MM): Declined
  31. CB Jeff Gladney, Vikings: N/A
  32. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs ($5.46MM): To decline

* = Lions traded Okudah on April 11, 2023
** = Jaguars traded Henderson on Sept. 27, 2021
*** = Eagles traded Reagor on August 31, 2022

Panthers Pick Up Derrick Brown’s Fifth-Year Option, Decline C.J. Henderson’s

A 2021 trade made the Panthers responsible for two fifth-year option decisions ahead of Tuesday’s deadline. The team will only pick up Derrick Brown‘s option, passing on C.J. Henderson‘s.

This was the expected call for the Panthers, who have rebuffed trade inquiries on Brown since the Matt Rhule firing opened the floodgates on that front last year. The Bears inquired about the former top-10 pick in this year’s talks about the No. 1 overall selection, but the sides ended up reaching a deal that included D.J. Moore. Brown is now under contract for two more years.

Since Brown has been a regular starter but one without a Pro Bowl on his resume, he qualifies for the third tier of the fifth-year option structure. That comes out to a manageable $11.67MM fully guaranteed salary for Brown in 2024. Even as Henderson’s playing time drops him to Tier 4 of the option hierarchy ($11.51MM for cornerbacks), the Panthers are passing. Henderson is now in a contract year.

Brown, who turned 25 last month, has continued to elevate his game. Pro Football Focus ranked the former No. 7 overall pick as the game’s seventh-best interior D-lineman last season. The advanced metrics site slotted Brown third overall among interior D-linemen against the run. The Auburn product finished last season with just one sack but batted down seven passes and totaled 17 pressures. That number ranked in the top 15 among pure interior defenders last season.

When the Panthers axed Rhule in October 2022, they fielded calls on a few players. Christian McCaffrey ended up being dealt, but the Panthers hung onto Moore, Brown and Brian Burns. The Panthers relented on Moore when other teams’ interest in the No. 1 overall pick required them to up their offer to the Bears, but Brown and Burns are extension candidates. The Panthers have Burns going into his fifth-year option season, but they have continued to plan for an extension. Brown became extension-eligible in January, but seeing as Monday’s option call locks him down through 2024, it would not be surprising if the team huddled up on a Brown deal next year.

Henderson has not delivered what the Panthers had hoped upon trading for him early during the 2021 season. The Jaguars bailed on the former No. 9 overall draftee early, with Urban Meyer signing off on the September 2021 trade. After going down with an injury midway through his rookie season, Henderson has not become a reliable starter. PFF ranked the Florida alum outside the top 100 at corner in 2021 and ’22.

The Panthers also have potential extension payments coming to Jeremy Chinn and Jaycee Horn; both of whom came up amid the post-Rhule fallout last year. Donte Jackson and Vonn Bell are tied to veteran deals. Up front, no big contracts reside on the Panthers’ payroll. But Burns will likely change that soon. By next summer, both Burns and Brown could be signed to long-term accords. But Monday’s decision bought the Panthers additional time on Brown.

Bears Also Targeted Brian Burns, Derrick Brown; Panthers Discussed Trades With Cardinals, Seahawks

The Rams’ 2016 trade-up for Jared Goff involved only picks being exchanged with the Titans, whereas the Falcons’ 2001 move for Michael Vick featured a player and draft choices going to the Chargers. Standout return man Tim Dwight went to San Diego in that deal. Ryan Poles preferred the latter structure, leading to the pre-free agency swap that featured D.J. Moore and picks going to the Bears.

Chicago’s second-year GM zeroed in on a picks-and-players package when he began dangling the No. 1 overall pick, Joe Person, Adam Jahns and Kevin Fishbain of The Athletic report (subscription required). The Bears had other targets beyond Moore. Unsurprisingly, they were the two other top trade chips that came up at last year’s trade deadline. Chicago also targeted Brian Burns and Derrick Brown.

[RELATED: Panthers Leaning Toward Bryce Young At No. 1?]

Poles sought advice from Chicago Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson, per The Athletic, citing the NHL as relevant reference material regarding trades involving picks and players. The Bears first heard from the Panthers on a trade, after Carolina — even though team brass met with Derek Carr at the Combine — determined a rookie passer would be the plan after three seasons of veteran retreads post-Cam Newton. Chicago also discussed the pick with Houston and Las Vegas, but Poles’ relationship with Carolina GM Scott Fitterer helped move the intra-NFC trade past the goal line.

The Panthers’ first offer included only picks, per The Athletic, but Poles informed Fitterer picks alone would not be enough to allow the Panthers to move from No. 9 to No. 1. Carolina pulled that proposal, and Burns, Brown and Moore came up. All three players emerged as targets at last year’s deadline — none more so than Burns, who drew a two-first-rounder offer from the Rams. The picks included in that proposal were in 2024 and 2025, however, leading the Panthers to pass.

There were certain players that we never really wanted to trade,” Fitterer said, via The Athletic. “It’s so hard to replace a Derrick Brown or Brian Burns, a pass rusher [and] an interior, dominant young player on a [first] contract. D.J., we didn’t want to move either. But it’s a little bit easier to replace a receiver than it is a pass rusher or a three-tech.”

Burns is entering his fifth-year option season, while Brown is going into Year 4. Both players arrived before Fitterer did, but the team has long planned to hammer out an extension with Burns. Fitterer’s comments on Burns’ value stand to strengthen the defensive end’s negotiating position. The Panthers are aiming to do a Burns extension after the draft. They will likely target receivers in the draft, though signings of Adam Thielen and DJ Chark lessen that need a bit.

Prior to pulling off the trade with the Bears, the Panthers discussed prospective deals with the Cardinals for the No. 3 pick and the Seahawks for the fifth choice. Neither negotiation gained much steam, per Person, even given Fitterer’s lengthy past in Seattle. The Colts also checked in with the Bears, according to Jahns and Fishbain. That certainly adds up, given Indianapolis’ post-Andrew Luck history and both Poles and Colts GM Chris Ballard having worked together in Kansas City.

The second-round picks exchanged here provided another interesting component in this seminal swap. The Bears wanted the Panthers’ No. 39 overall pick, according to The Athletic. Reluctant to part with it due to the gap that would exist between Carolina’s Nos. 1 and 61 overall picks, Fitterer counteroffered the 61st selection (obtained in the Christian McCaffrey trade) and a 2025 second. Instead of collecting one second-round pick, the Bears ended up with two in this trade — one that also will send Carolina’s 2024 first to Chicago. After David Tepper pushed for Deshaun Watson in 2021 and ’22, the Panthers determined this was the time to strike.

I think when you’re at No. 9 — hopefully we’re not at No. 9 moving forward — this was an opportunity that we felt like, ‘Hey, this is the highest, hopefully, that we’re going to be in the future, so let’s take advantage of this, let’s be aggressive,” Panthers assistant GM Dan Morgan said, via the Charlotte Observer’s Mike Kaye. “Let’s trade up and let’s try to go get our quarterback.”

Considering the Panthers have held top-10 picks from 2020-22, it is not as though holding the No. 9 choice was rare draft real estate for the struggling team. Matt Rhule led the charge for the Panthers to stay at No. 7 and pass on a QB in 2020, rather than leapfrog both the Dolphins and Chargers for Justin Herbert, and the Panthers — after a failed Matthew Stafford pursuit — traded for Sam Darnold in 2021. The 2022 draft featured a poorly regarded QB crop, leading to Carolina taking Ikem Ekwonu at No. 6.

As the Panthers determined they wanted a first-round QB, the Bears viewed this year’s crop as impressive but not to the point it would bail on Justin Fields and make him their avenue toward stockpiling future picks. Instead, the Bears will be targeting non-quarterback options at 9. Pass rusher will be a consideration.

Play the percentage game, it’s probably a chance one [quarterback] slides in, but … there’s different tiers in the first round,” Poles said (via Jahns and Fishbain) of the prospect of more QBs going from Nos. 2-8 will help keep high-end position players on the board at 9. “There’s always that cut-off of ‘elite’ and then it’s ‘very good starters.’ I know we’ll be in range for the players that are going to be in that first round that kind of hit that value bucket and for our team are going to make us better.”

Latest On Panthers, Brian Burns

After dealing Robbie Anderson and Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers seem unwilling to strip away pieces from their homegrown young core. Brian Burns‘ name has headlined this group, but teams have still discussed the fourth-year defensive end with the Panthers.

The Panthers look to have made it known they do not want to deal Burns, and Adam Schefter of noting the team turned down an offer of two first-round picks for the Pro Bowl pass rusher. Burns would make for a lower-profile addition to the exclusive club of defenders dealt for two first-round picks in recent years. Khalil Mack, Jalen Ramsey and Jamal Adams each had an All-Pro nod on their respective resumes by the time they were moved for packages fronted by two first-rounders. Burns is a one-time Pro Bowler.

That report also surprised various teams around the league. A high-ranking exec said the Panthers wanted first- and second-round picks for Burns during his team’s talks with Carolina, per Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post. Other evaluators surveyed here believe that if the Panthers were indeed offered two firsts for Burns they should take it, JLC adds. Burns, 24, is moving toward a second Pro Bowl season, but the former first-rounder has yet to cross the 10-sack barrier in a campaign.

Still, the Panthers should be considered unlikely to deal Burns, D.J. Moore or Jeremy Chinn. The Panthers have also told teams they are not trading Derrick Brown or Jaycee Horn, Schefter adds. Brown can be controlled through 2024 and Horn through 2025, via the fifth-year option. The Panthers have made Shaq Thompson available, but the Burns-Chinn-Moore-Brown core — which is naturally more appealing to teams due to the performers’ ages — is being protected. The Panthers continue to discuss Moore with teams, however, La Canfora adds. Thus far, the team is resisting this trade interest.

The Rams are viewed as a team likely to have made a strong offer for Burns, La Canfora adds, with The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue indicating the team should be expected to pursue edge players before the deadline (Twitter link). Los Angeles has acquired Ramsey, Von Miller and Dante Fowler at recent trade deadlines, using Day 1 and Day 2 picks to land these defenders. The Fowler and Miller moves helped those respective Rams editions to Super Bowls. The Rams do not have their 2023 first-round pick. That would seem to impact any Burns pursuit, though the team could likely land other potentially available edges without a first-rounder being necessary.

Miller choosing the Bills in free agency set back the Rams’ pass rush, however. Leonard Floyd entered the season as the defending champions’ top edge rusher; the $16MM-per-year sack artist is sackless through six games. Although Ramsey and off-ball linebacker Bobby Wagner have two sacks apiece, Aaron Donald (four) is the only Rams rusher to have registered more than one sack this season.

Carolina has added three 2023 picks, two 2024 choices and a 2025 selection for dealing McCaffrey and Anderson. Moving Thompson, 28, would add to this growing draft arsenal. But Carolina’s collection of young talent — on display during the team’s 21-3 Week 7 win over the Buccaneers — figures to still come up in conversations ahead of the Nov. 1 deadline. Trading one of those players could move the needle further for GM Scott Fitterer, a Matt Rhule-era hire who should not be considered — based on how David Tepper proceeded with former GM Marty Hurney during Rhule’s time — a lock to be the one making these draft picks. That said, Tepper backed Fitterer in the wake of Rhule’s firing.

Panthers GM: Would Need ‘Astronomical’ Return To Trade Certain Players

Although the Panthers have stopped short of full fire-sale mode, the trade of Christian McCaffrey does send off signals big names can be obtained. But Scott Fitterer attempted to cool off any rumors of that sort in the wake of the All-Pro running back’s departure.

McCaffrey drew interest and fetched a four-pick trade package — far shy of the Cowboys’ franchise-changing Herschel Walker haul but more than the Colts collected for Marshall Faulk — but Panthers that play higher-value positions have steadily generated interest since Matt Rhule‘s firing. Fitterer stopped short of taking those players off the market but indicated they probably cannot be had.

There’s players on this team that I really don’t want to trade, I know this organization does not want to trade,” Fitterer said Friday. “It would have to take something astronomical. But I think moving forward, we like where we’re at. We like our young players.”

It is fairly safe to assume D.J. Moore and Brian Burns qualify for the “astronomical” classifier. The Panthers view Moore as a foundational piece, according to Jeremy Fowler of (on Twitter). Burns could be in play, but Albert Breer of tweets it would take something like two first-round picks to pull off such a deal.

This year further educated the football-following public on wide receiver availability. Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown and Marquise Brown went for packages headlined by first-round picks. Given the buzz attached to Moore since Rhule’s firing, the Panthers likely would hold out for a compensation haul featuring a first-rounder and then some. Moore, 25, has back-to-back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons on his resume, reaching this benchmark consistently despite Carolina’s quarterback inconsistency. The Panthers gave him a three-year, $61.9MM extension in March.

Burns’ profile (one Pro Bowl) would not put him in the club of recent non-quarterbacks who commanded two first-round picks. Khalil Mack, Jalen Ramsey and Jamal Adams each had an All-Pro notch on their respective belts when they were traded for two first-rounders. Laremy Tunsil was moved without this accolade, however. Still, it is difficult to see a team betting that much on Burns at this point. He has not hit double-digit sacks in a season yet. The Panthers have been ready to re-up Burns for a bit now, though the team held off on doing an extension this year. Burns, 24, can drive up his extension price by continuing on his current pace.

Drafted during Rhule’s run, Derrick Brown is believed to be included in Carolina’s no-trade class. Shaq Thompson, the team’s longest-tenured player, is not. It will be interesting to see, especially now that McCaffrey is gone, if Thompson is moved before the Nov. 1 deadline. Players like cornerback Donte Jackson and offensive lineman Cameron Erving could be candidates as well, Joe Person of The Athletic offers (subscription required). Jeremy Chinn and Jaycee Horn can also be included among the core players Carolina does not want to trade, Person adds.

More players being sent away would naturally increase the chances the Panthers score a top-five draft choice. Carolina has not held such draft real estate since 2011, when it chose Cam Newton first overall. Hired during Rhule’s second offseason, Fitterer expects to be around when the team finds Rhule’s successor, Cameron Wolfe of tweets. David Tepper endorsed Fitterer this week and said he wants more balance regarding HC-GM decision-making, after Rhule held roster control during his tenure. Though, it probably cannot be considered a lock the second-year GM is back. Tepper fired GM Marty Hurney months after greenlighting a Rhule-Hurney arranged partnership. But Fitterer is running the show regarding Panthers trades. The longtime Seahawks exec has doubled the Panthers’ 2023 draft arsenal over the first four rounds, running it to six via the McCaffrey swap.

Teams Calling Panthers On Christian McCaffrey; WR Robbie Anderson Available

As they did this spring, the Panthers are receiving calls on Christian McCaffrey‘s potential availability. While the team is listening to offers for the former All-Pro running back, Adam Schefter of notes it shut down multiple inquiries recently.

Matt Rhule‘s firing may or may not have spurred these calls, with Schefter adding the Panthers discussed McCaffrey with multiple teams last week. Carolina rebuffed two teams on CMC at that point and is not planning to accept a below-market trade just to move the sixth-year back, Schefter adds. But McCaffrey trade buzz has been building over the past several days.

The Panthers have received “many calls” on players in the wake of Rhule’s firing, Ian Rapoport of reports, but McCaffrey has generated the most interest. CMC is tied to the four-year, $64MM extension he signed back in April 2020. It will take an “overwhelming” return to convince Carolina to move on from its longtime running back, Rapoport adds. This reminds of the team’s ask when McCaffrey’s name came up in trades in March. The Panthers wanted a first-round pick and a player on a manageable deal at that point.

McCaffrey profiles as perhaps the Panthers’ most interesting trade candidate, due to his profile and the unlikelihood the Panthers part ways with Brian Burns or D.J. Moore. While the latter duo look like longer-term Panthers cogs, due to age an positional value, McCaffrey is still just 26. And he has played in each of Carolina’s five games this season, temporarily minimizing concerns about his extensive injury past. Moore indeed is being viewed as untradeable, Rapoport adds, with the recently extended wideout being considered a big part of the franchise’s future. Carolina is also resistant to move pieces off its rebuilt offensive line, per Rapoport.

Burns and defensive tackle Derrick Brown are not believed to be on the table, Schefter adds (on Twitter). Teams are understandably interested in both young D-linemen, but each makes sense as a player the Panthers want to build around beyond 2022. The franchise has a different stance on Robbie Anderson, whom Rapoport and Schefter identify as a player who could be had in a trade. Conversations have occurred on Anderson, per Schefter.

Anderson, one of the many Temple alums who joined the team during Rhule’s tenure, has underwhelmed since a strong 2020 Carolina debut. Still, the ex-Jet deep threat posted a 95-catch, 1,096-yard season in 2020, enticing the Panthers to extend him. Anderson is signed through the 2023 season, via the two-year, $29.5MM extension he signed in 2021.

The former UDFA, who is going through his age-29 season, is tied to just a $1MM base salary this year. Carolina restructured Anderson’s contract this offseason. The deal calls for a nonguaranteed $8.8MM salary in 2023. The restructure could make Anderson, his recent struggles (albeit with a bottom-end quarterback situation) notwithstanding, an interesting trade chip. Anderson, who totaled just 519 yards in 2021 despite playing 17 games, has 13 receptions for 206 yards this year. Anderson came up in trade talks with the Patriots this offseason, but New England moved on with a DeVante Parker swap.

McCaffrey, whose deal runs through 2025, has appeared on Carolina’s injury report multiple times but has not run into the kind of trouble he experienced over the past two years. Multiple leg injuries led to McCaffrey missing 23 games since 2020, weakening Carolina’s Rhule-era offense. He has amassed 512 scrimmage yards and scored three touchdowns this season.

No guaranteed money remains on McCaffrey’s deal beyond 2022, and thanks to a 2022 restructure, he is also down to a league-minimum salary this season. The second-generation NFLer is due $11.8MM in 2023 and ’24, however, and $12MM in 2025. It would cost the Panthers $7.6MM in dead money if they dealt McCaffrey before the Nov. 1 deadline.

Panthers’ Post-Rhule Fallout: Termination, Replacement, Trades

The NFL news circuit was set ablaze today when news broke of the firings of Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow. The termination of Rhule was not necessarily a surprise, as he’s been firmly on the hot seat all year and the possibility of firing Rhule had been discussed “well before” today, according to Josina Anderson of CBS Sports, but it did create a newsworthy fallout of information that is of interest to those who follow the sport.

Many have talked about the contract implications of Rhule’s termination, alluding to the millions of dollars still remaining on his contract. While it’s completely applicable to Rhule’s situation, it doesn’t sound like it is a concern to Carolina. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweeted out that “Carolina is on the hook for this season, but the salaries for the ensuing seasons are offset by what his future college job pays him.” Essentially, Rhule will absolutely get his guaranteed money, but the onus won’t be on Carolina to pay it. Whenever Rhule, who is presumed to be a top college coaching candidate for next year, gets another job, his salary from the new school will offset the amount the Panthers owe him.

It was also announced that Panthers defensive passing game coordinator & secondary coach Steve Wilks will sub in as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. The defensive-minded former head coach of the Cardinals has apparently already begun to make the team his own. When Panthers owner David Tepper was asked why Snow was fired, he reportedly pointed the finger at Wilks, telling reporters to direct that question to the interim head coach, according to ESPN’s David Newton.

Here are a few more fallout items from today, starting with some ideas on Rhule’s replacement:

  • The biggest nugget to come out of today concerning Carolina is that, as most NFL executives expected Rhule to lose his job, many in league circles are expecting the Panthers to start dealing veteran assets in an attempt to accrue draft capital that might make the head coaching position more attractive, according to Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post. The Panthers currently only hold four draft picks for 2023: first-, second-, fourth-, and fifth-round picks, supporting the idea that trading away veterans could improve their current situation. Trading away veterans with expensive contracts, such as star running back Christian McCaffrey or wide receiver Robbie Anderson, could prove troublesome, according to La Canfora, so the Panthers are reportedly willing to eat some of those salaries in order to facilitate moving those assets. Early reports claimed that the Bills have reached out about McCaffrey and that they did in the offseason, as well, according to Person, but Tom Pelissero of NFL Network clarified that, while every team will be calling about McCaffrey, the Panthers haven’t engaged in any trade talks yet. In addition to McCaffrey and Anderson, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports expects wide receiver D.J. Moore, defensive end Brian Burns, and defensive tackle Derrick Brown to be on the table.
  • Jeff Howe of The Athletic posed the question today of who might replace Rhule and offered quite a few suggestions. Howe started the list with Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn who took the Falcons to the Super Bowl as head coach in 2016. Next, he mentioned 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans. Ryans interviewed for the Vikings’ job this offseason and was expected to interview for the Raiders’, as well. The 38-year-old has rocketed up coaching boards since retiring as a player in 2015. Another name mentioned was Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon who also interviewed for the Vikings last year, in addition to the Texans and Broncos. Howe went into great detail on every candidate, seeming to list anybody who may be up for a head coaching job in the next few seasons. His list included former NFL head coaches including the retired Sean Payton, Steelers senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach Brian Flores, Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, and former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, as well as the current interim head coach, Wilks. Other serious candidates Howe mentioned were Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, and Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. The list essentially devolved into an article about anybody who may make the jump to NFL head coach in the next few seasons, pointing out “wait and see” candidates such as Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, Dolphins offensive coordinator Frank Smith, Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell, and Giants defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale.
  • One interesting name that came out of today’s rumors was former Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly. Joe Person of The Athletic advised that an eye be kept on Kuechly, who remains close with Wilks and new defensive coordinator Al Holcomb, to come back in some capacity. After retiring from a pro scout position last year, Kuechly has been working as an analyst on Panthers radio broadcasts.